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COVER LETTER TIPS
Drafting A Cover Letter For Your First Law Job
By: Claire Bellon

Why Include a Cover Letter?

Most law students do not think that a cover letter is important, and that employers are only interested in the resume and don’t have time to read cover letters. While it may be true that some employers don’t bother reading cover letter, some employers not only read them, but also consider them important. Cover letters are viewed by these employers as will as a writing sample, and for entry-level positions, having excellent drafting skills can make the difference between landing the job and landing in the rejection pile.

What’s in a Cover Letter?

First, if you are going to take the time to draft a cover letter, make sure that it is effective. Simply rehashing what is already in the resume is a waste of time. If you are simply restating what is in the resume, your cover letter is not doing you justice. While the cover letter should not be disconnected from the resume, it should be used to help sell your skills and make links that may not be apparent on your resume. In other words, a good cover letter should highlight the skills and experiences you have that are most relevant to the job, and explain why you would be a good fit for the position.

For example, say that you are applying to work for a position with the District’s Attorney’s office and you have indicated on your resume that you belong to the law school’s criminal law group and that you volunteered for Criminal Defense Clinic last summer, obviously, those two pieces of information should be included in the cover letter. However, it’s not enough to just state this in the resume, you have to make links. That is, describe how these experiences have helped you develop skills and interest in the field of criminal law that will be applicable to this position.

How Do I Format My Cover Letter?

In general you should aim to keep your cover letter to no more than one page. Busy employers with limited time and resources don’t have a lot of time to spend on reading cover letters; therefore, your cover letter should focus on clarity and impact. Like your resume, the cover letter should include your name, address, telephone number, and email address. Be sure to include a date and a signature.

Like the resume, your cover letter should be carefully drafted and checked for mistakes. Don’t just rely on spell check, since some mistakes and typos will not be caught by spell check. Have a friend read over the final draft to make sure that it is typo-free, as your ability to draft a perfect document is of great importance to all legal employers. Your cover letter is also a writing sample, and as such, it should be polished, organized, and mistake-free.

To Whom Do I Address My Cover Letter?

Cover letters should be addressed using the appropriate title in the salutation. Never use a first name unless you know the addressee personally. Ms. should be used if a woman’s preference is not otherwise clear. Every cover letter you send must be addressed to an actual person, since it will likely be thrown away if it does not have a clear recipient. In writing to employers at which you do not know the name of the addressee, type “To Whom It May Concern.”

Date: 01/28/14
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